With literally hundreds of options to choose from, finding the right e-commerce platform can be incredibly confusing. There is rarely a “one size fits all” solution and every offering has its strengths and weaknesses.
That being said there are some services that do the basics really well and make it easy to quickly get up and running and here we will discuss some of the benefits of Shopify and why we feel it is a great option for many businesses.
What is Shopify?
Shopify is an out of the box hosted e-commerce solution that allows a user to quickly and easily create an online store, add products and if needed connect their on-line inventory to physical off-line store.
In addition to being the perfect solution for small start-ups. Shopify also offer an enterprise version of their software that is used by some of the world’s most well-known websites.
Shopify is one of the more well-established e-commerce platforms. It was launched in 2004 by a Canadian developer and his friends who were unable to find a piece of software that met their needs for an on-line store that they planned to launch.
Today the company have over 450,000 customer using their service in countries across the world. Stores running on the platform have processed billions of dollars in sales to date.
So now we’ve given a brief overview of what Shopify is, let’s dive into looking at some of the specific benefits of using Shopify.
Low Set Up Cost
When considering the benefits of an e-commerce platform one of the first things that many people look at is cost and value for money.
Shopify offer a range of pricing options with the cheapest being Shopify Lite which costs $9 per month and is aimed at people who already have another platform that they want to sell on such as Facebook or a WordPress website and are just looking for an inventory platform and the ability to embed products.
Most of the benefits that we discuss here relate to using Shopify basic onwards and below is the pricing table for those options. You can see more detail about the features offered for each plan level on the Shopify pricing page.
When considering the costs of setting up an online store it is important to consider what comes built in with the Shopify platform. $29 or $79 a month may seem steep but when you consider that you are getting hosting, security, platform maintenance and support thrown in. The costs are very reasonable.
Another important consideration is transaction fees and these differ depending on which subscription level you choose.
If you are running an online store that processes payments and personal information then good security is a critical consideration.
Obviously protecting your customer’s information should be your primary concern but there are many additional benefits to making sure you have solid security on your online store:
- Potentially Better Search Engine Rankings – Google announced in 2014 that they were incorporating HTTPS as a ranking signal in their algorithm. Whilst they said at the time that this was a relatively low weight signal, they did indicate that it may grow stronger over time and it seems likely that they would give this factor more weight when the search was transactional in nature. In addition to this, Google are also starting to give notifications in their Chrome browser to notify users when then site they are trying to visit is not secure.
- Improved Conversion Rates – There is strong evidence to show that having an SSL certificate can improve conversion rates by giving customers increased confidence that their personal details are handled securely.
If you are a small business and don’t have the technical resources or knowledge to make sure that you are doing the right thing by your customers then security can be a really confusing topic and Shopify can help to greatly simplify things. Shopify are also Level 1 PCI DSS Compliant which simply put means that your data is protected by the same protocols that banks are required to use.
One of the great benefits of Shopify as a hosted solution is that it is incredibly easy to ensure that your store is protected with pretty much just a click of a button. This protection does not just apply to your checkout. Shopify announced in 2014 that they would be offering site wide protection for free.
How well your store performs from a speed point of view is very important for a number of reasons. From a user experience point of view, how quickly pages load can have a significant impact on whether users stay on your site or bounce back to search results to look at your competitors.
To help put this into perspective, a study from Google has shown that 40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
The chart below helps to illustrate how a reduction in page load time can improve bounce rate.
In this instance a reduction in page load time lead to decrease in bounce rate of over 30%
In addition to potentially impacting on user experience, having a slow loading site can actually have an impact on your visibility in search engines. Google announced over 6 years ago that they had started to use speed as a ranking factor and as growth in use of mobile devices has increased, the weighting of this factor has likely grown.
With Shopify being a hosted solution you benefit from your store being hosted on their highly optimised servers which come with built in caching as well as images served through a content delivery network which means users get are served from the closest possible location to them to help reduce load times.
Part of how your Shopify site performs will also depend on the theme you choose and what additional apps you install but by opting for a hosted solution such as Shopify, you are taking a lot of work out of the process of optimising your site for performance right from the start.
Ease of Use
In addition to making it very quick and easy to get your store set up and configured, Shopify also make the administrative side of running your store. From adding collections and products to configuring shipping costs an intuitive and easy to navigate interface is provided with clearly labelled sections.
As with any platform, you will need to spend some time in learning the interface however as mentioned in the section on support, there is a comprehensive online help library as well as readily available customer support agents.
One of the key areas of the Shopify interface is the products section which is where you add new products as well as controlling your inventory, creating collections of products and even creating gift cards.
Depending on your requirements it really can be incredibly easy to set up a Shopify store and ease of use is one of the key benefits of the platform. There are some scenarios where things can get slightly more complex such as complicated shipping requirements, product variants etc however again there is plenty of support available from Shopify and plenty of third party specialists like Bake Creative who can help.
Another great feature of Shopify is the ability to import your inventory from another platform such as Etsy for example. Again, this is a slightly more complex process however it is certainly possible.
Point of Sale Integration
Whilst many stores operate purely on-line, there are also many bricks and mortar stores that also want to sell their products via an on-line channel and maintaining separate inventory for two different stores can prove to be not only a headache but also increase the risk of over or underselling.
Setting up integration between a point of sale and online inventory can be both costly and technically challenging. Another benefit with Shopify is that the process can be made surprisingly easy.
Shopify offer POS hardware to enable you to sync your inventory between your point of sale and your website to ensure that your stock levels are constantly kept up to date.
Shopify Theme Customisation
Another significant benefit of Shopify is its use of customisable themes. If you are familiar with content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal then you will be quite at home with how Shopify themes work.
Shopify themes are developed using a combination of standard HTML and CSS in conjunction with Shopify’s own templating language liquid which is used to dynamically insert store content into a theme.
Whilst originally developed by Shopify, Liquid was later released as an open source language and is used by well-known names including Salesforce, Zendesk, Spiceworks and many other platforms. It is extremely easy to pick up and there is plenty of documentation and community support available.
When it comes to finding the perfect theme for your Shopify store, there are a number of different options available:
The Shopify Theme Store
Shopify themselves offer over 50 themes in their theme store with a mixture of both free and premium themes available. These are filterable by industry, layout style and popularity.
An advantage of selecting a theme directly from Shopify is that their available themes are strictly curated and developers have to go through a rigorous approval procedure in order to have a theme listed to ensure that they are of good quality.
Third Party Theme Stores
In addition to the official Shopify theme store, there are many other websites such asThemeForest and Pixel Union where you can purchase themes although it is important to remember that when buying from these providers directly, that their themes may not have been through the same comprehensive review process as those on the Shopify store.
Bespoke Theme Development
If you can’t find a theme from the above sources that closely meets your requirements then another option is have a bespoke theme developed. Shopify have a list of approved developers that you can filter by country, budget and keywords.
Shopify App Integration
In addition to being able to completely customise the look and feel of a store, Shopify also have an app store which allows store owners to quickly and easily add additional functionality. The app store has add-ons categorised by a wide variety of functions including sales & marketing, Social Media, shipping and inventory and many others.
The pricing for Shopify apps varies with some being free, some with a one off cost and others on a monthly subscription basis. Shopify has a strong network of third party developers building apps and a recommended developer page that you can use if you want something bespoke just for your store.
With many self-hosted solutions such as WooCommerce you will typically be responsible for keeping all of the software up to date and applying any patches that come out to address bugs and security risks. This can be a major headache and costly if you don’t have in-house technical resources to do the work for you.
Because Shopify is a completely hosted solution, they take care of everything from server upgrades to version updates. This leaves you free to concentrate on keeping your stock updated and promoting your site.
Shopify Customer Support
One of the benefits of most open source platforms is that they tend to be free to use. A trade-off however is that support often either means a premium subscription or relying on community support.
For non-urgent issues then community support can often be fine. If your store goes down during a peak period such as the build up to Christmas then you probably don’t want to have to wait days for someone in a forum to help you fix your problem.
Support is another area where Shopify are extremely strong. Their help channels are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week and their support staff are knowledgeable, responsive and keen to help. You can contact Shopify support via a number of channels including live chat, email and phone. One of the particularly nice features about the Shopify support page is that it shows the average response time for each channel so you can choose the best option for your current problem.
Shopify Help Center
In addition to having support staff ready to help you, Shopify users also benefit from a comprehensive online help centre full of articles covering many aspects of running a store. Topics range from purchasing and setting up a domain to adding inventory and even how to understand and configure the reporting features of your store.
Shopify Community Support
Like most platforms, Shopify also benefits from having an active community forum with hundreds of discussions going on across a wide range of topics from store configuration to how to improve the online visibility of your store. There is also a thread to get feedback on how you can improve your store and get better conversion rates.
The forums are perfect place to ask questions that fall outside of the built in functionality of Shopify such as adding custom code snippets. You can also find freelancers on the forums if you would prefer to pay someone to do the work for you.
The reporting abilities available to you in Shopify depend on your subscription level. For Shopify Lite and Basic, you get two reports, the online store dashboard and a finance report. These are shown below
Online Store Dashboard (Image Courtesy of Shopify)
Finances Report (Image Courtesy of Shopify)
These reports both give you a basic overview of sales activity on your site. For more in-depth information you can connect your Shopify store to Google Analytics E-Commerce reports for more detail on conversion rates and details on specific product sales.
With the standard Shopify subscription you get much more detailed reports in a range of areas including visitor behaviour and acquisition sources. You can see a comparison table of the reports available depending on subscription level below and the costs for these in the section on pricing.
You can find more information about the reports available in Shopify here and also more information about the available integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Google Analytics and more.
In addition to the standard reports available in Shopify, the app store also has dozens of apps available to provide additional reporting features.
Summary of the Benefits of Shopify
To summarise the topics covered above, the key benefits of using Shopify for your online store are:
- Ease of Use
- Low Cost
- Highly Customisable
- Easy to Maintain
- Point of Sale Integration
What to do next
Hopefully by now you understand the many benefits of Shopify and you may even be ready to give the platform a try in which case you can get a free 14 day trial of Shopify with no obligations and no payment details required.
If you would like more information before deciding if you would like to try Shopify then you can contact us with any questions. We will be happy to give you honest and impartial advice on whether this is the right platform for you. Alternatively, you can contact Shopify directly with any questions.